Felt + Snow = Bad

The chronicles of inappropriate footwear continue.

A few years ago, when I was shopping for the waders and boots I need for my job taking pictures while waist deep in rivers, I was under the impression I wanted felt-soled boots, to keep my feet from slipping on wet rocks. I have since recognized that rubber soles would be better in sandy marine environments, but most of my work is done in rivers.

I was a little nervous about today’s excursion because it was supposed to be 32 degrees and perhaps snowing. Last night, I laid out my fleece long underwear, sweats and wool socks to wear under the waders. I set out my North Face winter jacket. Yep, it’s time.

I also packed some snacks for Leo, who would wait in the car during my river walk. And made sure my memory card was in my camera and that my camera battery was charged and inside the camera. (Because one time I discovered after getting on a boat that I left the camera battery in the charger.)

But I forgot to bring my North Face jacket.

I worried nearly the whole way upriver that I would freeze to death, but actually, that wasn’t the problem. I was perfectly comfortable with a raincoat over a fleece jacket. The problem was the snow speckled on the creekside grass.

We didn’t spend as much time walking in the river channel as on the snowy grass. Within 10 steps, I had a thick accumulation of snow on my felt sole. My companion said, “Felts are the worst.”

Really? I thought I was supposed to have felts!

It was rough going, walking on frozen “rocker soles.” Like, if Lady Gaga wore fishing boots and then attached a rounded sole made of ice. That’s what these felt like.

Wasted time

Last night, my novel-writing teacher described her creative process. “It’s not very efficient, but then, being creative is rarely efficient.”

I’m efficient in a great many ways. The journalistic writing that earns my paycheck, generally, is efficient. But other aspects of my life are not.

I walked around on a broken sesamoid bone for six months before I knew it was broken. How much further along in my healing I would be if I’d known from the outset that it was broken.

Isis has displayed serious anxiety for more than two years, and we only started her on Prozac a month ago. Could I have saved the expense of four root canals, and would she not have worn all her teeth down if I’d put her on Prozac sooner?

We’ve had Leo since late June and the dogs still can’t be loose in the same room together. How many months will it be before our dogs can cohabitate? Is there something I could have done differently from day one that would have made a difference? How much time have I wasted doing the wrong thing?


Leo is still recovering from his surgery. The day after, he was leaping around so aggressively that I worried he would hurt himself, so we went back to the vet to get a cone and some sedatives. I’ve been very sparing with the sedatives, only giving them to him for his own safety, and not because, like, I’d like him to go to sleep and shut up for a few hours.

His incision looked fine to me, so I didn’t make him wear the cone. I didn’t realize that he would be more likely to lick the incision as it heals because it itches. The whole area looked inflamed to me on Tuesday so I took him back to the vet. They said it was fine. It looked inflamed and oozy to me on Wednesday, but I didn’t want to be a hysterical dog mom who brought him in every single day, so I waited until Friday. When they told me it was infected. Was it already infected on Tuesday? How much faster he would have healed if we started him on the antibiotics three days sooner!

So he’s pretty much wearing the cone all the time. I take it off for training exercises and walks. It looks better, but I’ll feel better when the scab falls off. He’s not going back to daycare until that happens.

Fashion inertia

It was drawn to my attention recently that journalists don’t know how to dress. Young women sometimes enter the field knowing how to dress, but within five years, they’ve lost their style.

I certainly was a lot more stylish when I was a newspaper reporter than I am now. In fact, I was overdressed for most of the first year I worked for a newspaper in Northwest Washington. Inevitably, I’d be wearing the wrong shoes, or a skirt, on the day I had to chase down a wayward whale. Or pick daffodils.

When I worked in the state capital, I rarely wore jeans, because you never knew when you might have to cover an event with the governor in attendance. I remember the exact outfit I wore when I first met the governor. Knee-length black skirt, sheer blue-green top over a tank top. You know what I was wearing when I saw the governor two months ago? Khakis, a T-shirt and hiking shoes.

In my defense, it was an outdoor event on a summer day, but many other people in attendance seemed to think it was a skirt/suit and tie affair. (The governor, as I recall, was wearing a button-down shirt and white pants, so not overly formal.)

Is my lack of style a result of being a journalist for 10 years…or is it the result of working as a journalist for an outdoorsy operation in the Pacific Northwest? I went to a work-related funeral last month and was one of maybe five women wearing a black skirt. I would have fit in fine in my khakis, T-shirt and hiking shoes.

The unfortunate side effect of never wearing anything other than jeans, khakis, T-shirt, sweatshirt or fleece is that I am not current on cute outfits for going to a nice dinner or a concert (or a funeral). At this time, I do not have any “nice pants” that fit. I have a few dresses, but they don’t look quite right with the “special shoes” I have to wear for my broken foot.

Inertia and the killer whale

I’ve invoked Newton’s law on this blog before. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. Even if she’s had a really boring day at her desk. She might learn of an opportunity to get away from the desk and think, “Nah, I’d have to wake up early to do that.”

She might need a good kick to the head.

In the middle of a boring day last Thursday, a biologist e-mailed me some photographs of a fishery. Decent-sized, well-composed photos. I actually thought to myself, “Good. Now I don’t have to go out on a boat tomorrow to take pictures.”

I mean, it would be Friday. The weather was supposed to be divine. I had not one single thing on my behind-the-desk to-do list. The last thing I wanted to do was go on a boat ride.

The fishery started at 5 a.m. and I’d heard it could take four hours to get to the fishing spot. I hadn’t exactly been invited to sleep aboard a fishing boat, although had I been, surely I would have said no, thank you. I love almost every single thing boat-ride related, except that I’m usually the only woman aboard and there’s no bathroom. Holding it for several hours is not fun. Also, sometimes in this job, boat rides are damn cold.

Cry me a river, right?

A co-worker talked sense into me. I made two calls and found some enforcement officers who weren’t leaving until the civilized hour of 8 a.m. They happily took me with them.

It was the best day ever. They even made a bathroom stop for me. They didn’t make fun of me when I napped on the way back to the marina, and I’m sure my mouth was hanging wide open.

The morning fog made way for sunshine, but I kept on my fleece jacket the whole day and was pretty comfortable.

Ten hours on a dry speedboat, taking pictures of fishermen, capped off by a little whale watching. My only regret is that I didn’t get a shot of this guy’s face.

Cranky pants

Things have been going pretty well of late. My foot is on the road to recovery, and I have resumed some of my exercise classes. Summer is near, etc. etc.

Even in the face of “going pretty well of late,” sometimes I accidentally put on my cranky pants. I don’t even realize I’m wearing them. Perhaps some older ladies at the gym are sitting on a bench right next to the locker where I’ve stashed my stuff. They’re fully dressed in their street clothes, but they’re just chatting, oblivious to my needing to scooch around them in a cramped space to get to my towel. When I return from the shower and see that they’re still there, I let out one of those exasperated, “what-ever” sigh/snorts. Even though they don’t actually hear this, they do leave shortly thereafter.

Or maybe I’m recounting a challenging work situation in an instant message window, and I find myself wanting to use more profanity than is my usual. I don’t catch on at this point, because I’m not actually mad at anyone. There are some people who are sort of mad at me, but even this doesn’t really bother me, because what they’re mad about is something over which I didn’t have a whole lot of control.

Could be that I’m pulling into the parking lot at my lunch spot and become inordinately annoyed with people who creep along, waiting for someone else to vacate a spot, even though there are plenty of other spaces.

That was the moment of realization for me today, when I uttered something derogatory and profane about a faceless driver in front of me, for a pretty insignificant offense.

Oh, shit, I’m wearing my cranky pants today!

Nothing an 84-gram organic orange dark chocolate bar won’t fix. That’s a single serving, right? 84 grams?

Roses and thorns

It was suggested to me that I would feel more energized and motivated throughout the day if I woke up early and exercised. And if I spent less time on the couch, watching TV (gasp).

This is true, I noticed it when I worked out in my pajamas to a 6 a.m. German exercise show in Prague before an early shift. Better than working out to my TV, or in my 2,100-square-foot personal backyard exercise room, or even walking the dog, would be to leave the house and go to an exercise class where there are other people.

The lack of meaningful, face-to-face interaction with other people is the main problem with my job. Yesterday I was alone for most of the day in the office. I heard Michelle Obama this morning talking about her dinner table practice of asking everyone what their Roses and Thorns were from the day.

Almost worse than having one single thorn, the most unpleasant part of my day was sitting listless at my desk for six hours, not really getting anything done largely because I didn’t have anything that needed to get done. It doesn’t stick out like, “Man, this is the thorn of my day,” just a general malaise.

The rose? Teaching class with Rob last night made me happy. But the best, best part of my day? Watching the Lost season premiere.

So yes, while I am going to make an effort to get out of bed early to go to an exercise class, there is no way I’m giving up any TV shows.

Machines fail me

I dropped my motorola phone one time too many yesterday and it stopped working. This is a year-and-a-half old cell phone, not my precious iPod John Henry, but the loss is quite upsetting nevertheless. The cellphone has been my primary phone for several years, even if this model only has been with me a short while. I am due to upgrade in March, and AT&T makes it difficult (expensive) to do it any sooner.

The problem is, I didn’t want to upgrade. For the first time, I haven’t been counting the days to upgrade time, obsessively reading reviews and researching what my next phone will be. This mahogany-colored Motorola V9 has met all my needs, which are few:

  • Make calls
  • Receive calls
  • Make and receive small numbers of text messages
  • Wake me up
  • Play ringtones
  • Take photos in a pinch
  • Display pictures of my dog
  • Has speaker phone

I have used it to check email, but only in emergencies. I want my phone to feel like a phone, not an iPod. No sliding keypad, just a flip phone. I liked that it had a bit of weight because it was easy to find in my bag. I don’t need any fancy data-using features.

I went to four AT&T stores, Walmart (I know) and Best Buy yesterday. I also searched Amazon and AT&T’s sites. Apparently no one wants Motorola flip phones anymore. You can’t get them new anywhere. You can get an international “unlocked” version, but those are very poorly rated on Amazon.

I seem to have found someone on Freecycle who is going to give me one for free. (All hail Freecycle.) Plan B is to spend $100 at eBay on a used one. Aside from free, this is probably the least expensive, since AT&T will charge me a $75 early upgrade fee…and based on the available phones at the moment, I don’t even want to upgrade with them in March.

I was in a pretty good mood yesterday before I destroyed this link to the outside world. I was set to drive to Olympia for two nights, to attend work meetings. I had my new iPod, my new laptop and my trusty Motorola. Without a functioning phone, I felt isolated and alone as I drove in the rain, getting used to the company car’s windshield wiper settings and trying to find the perfect intermittent speed.

The best thing I did yesterday was shop for handbags at the outlet mall. I’m not totally into labels or anything, but Kate Spade bags were the rage when I was first out of college, and they are quality. I went to the outlet mall specifically to go to the Kate Spade store, and was faced with yet another disappointment when the store wasn’t listed on the directory. I went into Coach and almost bought an $89 bag before deciding to shop around a little more and stumbling upon the Kate Spade store. I picked out a $99 bag, which rang up at an additional 40 percent off, so I went back to Coach and got that one too!

I got a green tea latte from Starbucks, which was for some reason spiked with espresso. It tasted sort of interesting, so I drank it anyway, not feeling like turning the car around to complain. The upside was that I didn’t fall asleep on the drive and I was able to get work done until 11 and watch Conan at 11:30 (Is NBC really putting Leno back on at 11:35? Quelle horreur.) The bad news is that I slept two hours, woke up with the hotel TV still on, and tossed and turned for another three hours before finally falling asleep, only to wake up an hour early having dreamed about worrying that I would oversleep.

Meeting with my department was productive and fun, but the day was soured with the discovery that I may have lost practically every photo I have taken for work in the past two years. My external hard drive had been failing, but I thought we’d be able to retrieve the data before it spontaneously combusted. Not so, it seems. Many of my best photos exist elsewhere, because they have been used in publications and someone else has a copy of the file. But it’s an organizational disaster and very depressing. Note to self: It’s not a backup if you don’t have the files saved somewhere else.

My old work computer was overtaxed, and I thought it would die before the external drive. Now, I can get files off of it, but not the external. Unfortunately, I stopped saving the raw photo files on the computer all together.

Sigh. New year, new start, right?

Happiness is a warm puppy

If anyone ever asks, the way to my heart is with a dog. You know how some people are baby crazy? I’m dog crazy.

My best friend just had a baby and he is beautiful. I met him at a week and a half and I wanted to hold him. His aunt said, “You can pick him up,” and I said, “I don’t know how.” I said that if there were a puppy, I’d be all up in its face. Which I proved earlier this week, when my coworker brought in her 2-month-old dachshund. I snatched that puppy right out of her lap.

When I see a dog on the street, even if it’s an ugly or uncharismatic creature, I shriek, “Doggie!” either out loud or in my head.

I brought Isis to work on New Year’s Eve, when I was the only one in the office. She was mostly good and we went on a great walk on top of the river dike across the street from my office. She did, however, bark like the vicious protector against evil that she is at a couple of guys in parkas outside my window and later at an older guy getting out of his truck.

There’s one other person here today, but it’s been almost as slow as it was on the last day of the year. I wish Isis were here. Or that I could at least see her on the petcam. I’m not sure there’s even been a single person outside my window that Isis would have barked at were she here, but it doesn’t really matter. I think I have to come to terms with the fact that she’s not a great office dog.

Spawning thoughts

I’ve decided to do Nanowrimo again.  Apparently this is an odd-year thing, like pink salmon runs. I did it in 2005 and 2007, writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I had pretty good ideas both years, and yet, each time struggled just a little to make my word count. The first year, I took excerpts from news stories I’d written. It’s not cheating if I wrote it, right? I mean, I wrote more than 50,000 words that month, it’s just that most of it was for my job. It’s not cheating if the stories actually fit into the plot of the novel, right?

The trouble with the novels of 2005 and 2007, along with my first novel, the only one that’s “complete,” is that they’re far too derivative from my actual life and I get scared about having anyone read them. Defeats the purpose a little.

I’m determined to get my writing juices moving again. So do I write something that is again so personal I don’t want anyone to read it, just to get the words flowing, or do I really make an effort to write fiction this time?

Because so far, what I’m thinking is a story about a woman building an enormous shop in her backyard.

hansen spawners small (43)

Speaking of pink salmon, I watched some spawn yesterday in a creek that is the focal point of a restoration project. While taking pictures of the site, I glanced at the stream to see if there were fish, assuming there wouldn’t be because someone would have mentioned it if there were. I heard a splash or two and didn’t see them at first, but sure enough, the creek was loaded with pinks. Steelhead too, I think. It’s tough to get good pics of spawning fish and I trudged through the sludge back to the car to get my polarized filter. I shot about 100 photos of fish. (and slightly fewer than that of the construction work I was supposed to be shooting.)

It was wonderful. No rush to be anywhere. I had a chance to enjoy the view without self-consciousness. I love this part of my job: “reporting,” getting out there and observing something, seeing something that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Appreciating something. Documenting it. Attempting to create art out of it. And I did wind up with a few photos I like.

I hadn’t seen pinks spawn before. Chinook and coho yes. I liked that I was able to identify them definitively by the humps on their back. I watched them nuzzle up against each other and whiz around and I tried desperately to get a shot of one with its head out of the water.

hansen spawners (27) copy

I succeeded but didn’t know it until I got back to the office to view the files.

I could have stayed all day if I’d had more photo cards on me and if I hadn’t gotten really hungry for lunch.

Google takes over the world

I don’t use Word to write anymore, I use a website called Google Docs that lets me share my stories with my boss and counterparts so they can edit and see changes as I edit. I also can access the stories from any computer with Internet, so when my computer at work dies (any day now), I won’t lose any material. This doesn’t account for whatever disaster that could erase my stuff from the Internet, but anyway.

When I draft a story, I send the draft to various people for editing and approval. I tend to cut and paste the entire document into the body of the email. It just seems easier to me to read something in the email than to have to click on something else and wait while Microsoft Word opens. Sometimes it’s handy because you can track changes in Word, so I can see what edits have been made, but my email program (Outlook) makes my edits a different color when I reply to an email, so that works too.

I don’t mind when someone else takes the story, puts it in Word and then sends it back to me as an attachment, but I think it’s really weird when they ask me to send it again as a Word document. All I’m doing is cutting the text from the email I just sent and pasting it into Word. Can’t they do that themselves?

Today was a pretty typical Friday at my job. I have not spoken to or Instant Messaged a single coworker today. I just sent an email to my boss and that was the only work-related communication I have had. None of my officemates are in today.

I said “Thank you” to the woman at the dry cleaner next door who accepts UPS packages for us when our office is closed. I answered one phone call (for one of the absent coworkers). I spoke to the drive-thru people, the guy at the post office, and the jerk cashier at Fred Meyer who watched my 55-cent coupon get trapped under the conveyor belt and told me I shouldn’t have left it there. And then, unable to retrieve it, did not give me 55 cents off the Swiffer WetJet refill.

I exchanged emails with the dog trainer. Rob’s coworker emailed me inviting us bowling tonight (We accepted). Rob called. I replied to a comment someone left on my wall on Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I worked on a design project for the better part of the day. It wasn’t all Facebook and post office.

But that is all the communication/human interaction I have had as of 5 pm Friday. I feel all right about it.